Don’t ever let an NBA owner plead poverty, because the way the Brooklyn Nets continue to treat Kevin Durant is nuts. Sure, Durant could win a championship for them in the next three seasons, but the latest instance of the Nets throwing money at the 31-year-old forward boggles the mind.
Kevin Durant’s injury has cost him an entire season
One would be foolish not to recognize what Kevin Durant has accomplished in the NBA after leaving the University of Texas as a one-and-done in 2007. The 6-foot-10 forward led the NBA in scoring four times, made 10 NBA All-Star teams, and averaged nearly 37 minutes a game over his first 12 pro seasons.
That kind of work definitely deserves to be rewarded, and Durant cashed some nice checks. His final five-year deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder netted him $89.1 million. Durant then moved on to Golden State, where he made $81.5 million over three years. However, Durant also left $31.5 million on the table by opting out of his Warriors contract in one of the most interesting instances ever of an athlete betting on himself.
Durant missed time after a calf strain during the Western Conference semifinals of the 2019 NBA playoffs. After sitting for nine games, he returned to the court for the fifth game of the championship series against the Toronto Raptors, only to go down with another injury midway through the first half.
The injury this time was a ruptured Achilles tendon, which everyone immediately realized would blow up his 2019-20 season. Rather than accept the security of the final year of his contract while putting the leg through rehab, Durant opted out in order to gamble on the free-agent market.
From that point on it would be the Brooklyn Nets doing all the gambling, calculating that Durant and Kyrie Irving would turn them into a contender.
The Brooklyn Nets weren’t scared off by the injury
Kevin Durant owned an opt-out with the Golden State Warriors, so he could have limped out of town with no strings attached. Instead, he gave the team a gift by agreeing to a sign-and-trade that allowed Golden State to acquire guards D’Angelo Russell and Shabazz Napier, and forward Treveon Graham, from the Brooklyn Nets.
The Warriors would have preferred keeping Durant, but they moved pieces around and ended up with swingman Andrew Wiggins by the time the dealing was done. That certainly beat walking away empty-handed.
On the other hand, the Nets accepted Durant and his four-year, $164.25 million contract knowing that he would provide nothing for their $37.2 million in the current season. There was brief speculation that the 20 weeks the NBA lost to the COVID-19 pandemic would allow Durant – who tested positive for the virus in mid-March — to return for the playoffs, but the Nets made the decision to not risk a new injury to his right leg.
Kevin Durant ‘earns’ a no-show bonus
The Brooklyn Nets improved their record during the NBA restart to 3-2 with a 119-106 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Aug. 7. By virtue of that victory, Brooklyn clinched a spot in the playoffs in Orlando.
The most interesting aspect of the development is that it triggered a $1 million bonus for Kevin Durant, who hasn’t played a minute during the 2019-20 season.
Though Durant’s contract was technically negotiated with the Golden State Warriors, the Nets had to be closely involved, too, since they were about to become part of the sign-and-trade deal. Did it not occur to anyone to include a clause that Durant had to play in maybe 10 or 15 games during the season in order to qualify for the bonus?
Better still: When you’re paying a guy $164.25 million over four years, shouldn’t the clause in the contract be that he has to give back a couple of million in the years in which the Nets don’t make the playoffs?